The government has made internet boxes a symbol of digital sobriety. And that’s even if turning off the box or cutting the Wi-Fi represents only a small part of the country’s energy expenditure.
During the presentation of its prudent plan this Thursday, October 6, the telecom community was invited to participate in the national effort to avoid possible power outages during the winter. The government has thus invited the operators to “determine the criteria for placing Internet boxes and TV decoders for standby when they are not in use”, the text specifies.
From the TV decoder side, it is quite easy to understand that when a person is not watching their TV, the tool will be put on standby. SFR (whose parent company Altice owns BFMTV) also announced on Tuesday, October 4, ahead of government recommendations, the introduction of an automatic deep clock for its decoders from November. This function promises a saving in the energy consumption of the device up to 90%.
However, the maneuver is much less intuitive for web boxes. Already in July, government spokesman Olivier Véran suggested “disconnecting Wi-Fi” when you leave for the weekend or on vacation. But now, the gesture can become everyday.
“You don’t leave your car engine running in the parking lot all day waiting to use it. The same for a water faucet. However, this is the case with Internet connectivity,” notes Frédéric Bordage, independent expert in digital prudence and founder of Green IT.
This group of independent experts has been consulted for ten years by ministerial offices. Thus 13 digital measures were proposed to the government by Green IT as part of this prudence plan. If not all are kept, the readiness of Internet boxes and TV set-top boxes is made available.
In one of its studies, Green IT pointed out that “an ADSL/fiber box consumes an average of 158 kWh of electricity per year and up to 300 kWh depending on the model”. This amount may seem low, but it represents 19% of the electricity consumption devoted to digital in a home. Above all, annual consumption rises to 6.5 TWh (or 6.5 billion kilowatt hours) for the entire territory.
“On the scale of France, it is very little. But it is the easiest deposit to work with, assures Frédéric Bordage. By turning off internet boxes and TV set-top boxes in a wide range during the day and part of the night, the savings can be around 50%.
Developing modes of readiness
According to the expert, this simple gesture would have several virtues. First of all, it would make consumers aware that digital technology, often presented as intangible, has real life impacts. But it is also a saving of 3.2 TWh that would be achieved. Roughly, half of the nuclear reactor would be freed this way.
To achieve this, operators are already taking action. Orange, for example, has adopted two standby modes in its new Livebox. Launched in April, it offers to cut services and keep only the landline (standby) or stop all services (hibernate). With energy savings of 30% and 93% respectively. “Reducing the energy impact of devices was a priority in the development of Livebox 6,” the company says.
Additionally, newer generations of web boxes are generally more efficient. “The latest Freebox – Freebox Pop – consumes 40% less than the previous generation”, assures a spokesperson for Free, to Tech&Co. As for Orange, the Internet service provider offers its customers the possibility of programming an automatic Wi-Fi shutdown during certain time slots, through an application.
Operators must already renew the fleet of internet boxes installed with customers. All while making them aware of these saving gestures. But the challenge also lies in migrating ADSL subscribers to fiber offerings, a more efficient and less energy-intensive technology, Free points out.